Beyond the Raptors: The Chicago Bulls

Bosh for Gibson and Hinrich? WTF Happened with Vinny Del Negro, and is Paxson next? Beyond the Raptors continues by talking to Matt McHale about the Bulls.

Late last week, Chris Bosh’s camp released a wish list of teams he would play for, and the Bulls happen to be one of them (shocking all the teams are linked to either LeBron or Wade or Kobe). The Bulls will be frustrating to deal with (if we in fact do a deal with them) since the guys we would want (Noah, Rose) wont be the guys we would probably get (Gibson, Deng, Hinrich). Not to say those guys wouldn’t provide the Raptors any value, but you know, you trade Bosh, you expect a Noah back while not handing the Bulls a championship lineup since you know, we should be the one building a championship team.

I check with Matt McHale from the ESPN TrueHoop blog By The Horns, to get his take on the Bosh rumours, as well as the situation with Vinny Del Negro:

Sam Holako: Vinny Del Negro got the axe, and probably would have got it earlier in the season if the team didn’t pull together and play so well down the stretch. Looking in from the outside, it seems that he was dealt a bum hand by Paxson, who let Ben Gordon walk, traded John Salmons for rags and didn’t give a good enough team to a rookie head-coach to win with. If you ask me, Paxson should be the next change Reinsdorf makes to this team. What are your thoughts on this whole situation?

Matt McHale: Well, I do feel like Vinny was hired to be fired. Chicago’s front office had a plan that was two years in the making: Hire a “placeholder” coach, cut salary, and then try to go all in during the free agent bonanza this summer. All I can do is speculate, but Bulls management never showed strong support for Vinny nor did they ever do anything to indicate that he was part of their plans past this season. And yet all Vinny did — for all his faults as a relatively inexperienced head coach — was get the team to overachieve based on their talent and how they were constructed.

Speaking of which…who put this team together? John Paxson. And his management of the team hasn’t been stellar. His biggest mistakes — among many — include breaking the bank for Ben Wallace (who worked out so poorly he had to be traded for Larry Hughes!), trading LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas (who worked out so poorly he had to be traded for a couple expiring contracts) and vastly overpaying for Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng. The only thing that has prevented his stewardship of the Bulls from being a complete and utter disaster was the team lucking into the number one overall draft pick they used to get Derrick Rose. Just think of where this team would be without that kid. Yikes.

And yet during the 2008-09 season, after calling the team a “disaster” and “embarrassing,” team owner Jerry Reinsdorf said: “When you have a team that’s not performing it’s an organization failure. You win and you lose as an organization. But if there’s one person that is not responsible for what’s going on right now, it’s John Paxson. I have tremendous confidence in John Paxson. He’s really one of the best people that I know. He’s a great general manager and a great judge of talent.”

What can you do about a guy in that tight with the man who’s funding the team?

And although I would like to see Pax given his walking papers, this is a huge summer in terms of looking for a new head coach and trying to lure a big time free agent or two to the Windy City. Firing the team’s executive vice president would make the team seem in even more disarray…which could be costly.

SH: Wow, talk about a ringing endorsement; guess clutch 3-point shooting in the 90s pays off beyond a couple championship runs. So what’s the plan now? There has been very intense rumours about LeBron joining the Bulls this year. If he can handle playing in Jordan’s shadow, it seems to be the best fit for LBJ on any team in the league, and propel the Bulls back into championship contention. It would also redeem some of those poor personell moves Paxson has made over the years (lucking into the #1 pick shouldn’t have saved his job IMHO).

MM: Well, it goes without saying that the Bulls — and every other team — would love to have LeBron James suiting up for them. And I’m sure Chicago’s front office will reach out to him. But the larger plan is to land somebody big: LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Amar’e Stoudemore…a superstar or borderline superstar who can address some of the team’s glaring needs (scoring first and foremost, and an inside game if possible). That’s priority one in terms of player personnel. Then the Bulls will need to bring in a couple crack three-point shooters to help with spacing. But right now, every iota of energy that isn’t expended searching for a coach will be used to land one of the “White Whales.”

SH: Who’s the front runner for the coaching gig? Calipari’s name seems to be coming up left and right.

MM: Honestly, I have no idea. Cal has been very firm about the fact that he has no plans to leave Kentucky. And anyway, Chicago’s front office has stated that they want a coach with extensive regular season and playoff experience. Calipari compiled a .391 winning percentage over 184 games with the New Jersey Nets, and his only playoff experience was presiding over a three-game sweep of his team in the first round of the 1998 NBA playoffs. That doesn’t exactly fit the bill.

Bulls management is being very careful about this coaching search. Read that: slow.

And in all honestly, they could be waiting for a better idea of who they might be able to land in fre agency. After all, it could have a serious effect on the kind of coach they would want for the team, in terms of offensive/defensive philosophies.

SH: Speaking of free agency, there has been talk of LeBron, Bosh, Wade as possible targets, but each is a very different kind of player. What kind of player do you prefer the Bulls land?

MM: Well, let’s face it: If you can get LeBron James, you get LeBron James. I think the same thing could probably be said about Dwyane Wade. If you can get a bonafide superduperstar, you do it and then rebuild (even if only partially) around them.

But assuming those two are out of reach, the Bulls need — and have needed for years and years — a frontcourt scorer to complement Derrick Rose. Someone who can score from the low post and run the pick and roll successfully. From that standpoint, I think the Bulls should target Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer and/or Amar’e Stoudemire.

SH: What do you make of the phone call between LeBron and Rose?

MM: I think LeBron is, as Mr. Spock said in the latest Star Trek reboot, “cultivating multiple options.” It’s entirely possible he also called Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, too. To me, it seems like LeBron is feeling things out, getting a sense of what’s available out there, whom he might want to play with, and who might want to play with him. It seems to suggest that LeBron is at least considering Chicago as a potential destination…but that’s about it.

Of course, maybe LeBron is just buttering Rose up to get him to join the U.S. national team. Remember, back in December, this was what James said when asked if he’d like to team up with Rose: “Yeah, especially on an Olympic team. He did a great job this past summer holding it down for some of the older guys, giving them some rest. He’s a great point guard. He’s a great player. I love watching Derrick play, man, he’s unbelievable. All he’s going to do is continue to get better — with every game, with every practice. Hopefully in the 2012 Olympics, he can be a part of that team and have some fun.”

SH: Make me an offer for Chris Bosh in a sign-n-trade situation.

MM: Here’s my suggestion: Taj Gibson (and solid, up-and-coming PF) to replace Bosh and Kirk Hinrich. No, wait, here me out. I checked and noticed that opposing PGs averaged 21+ PPG with an eFG of 52% and a PER of 20.1 against the Raptors this season. That’s like facing an All-Star PG every night. You don’t necessarily have to start Kirk, but you could bring him in as a defensive stopper off the bench against opposing PGs and SGs (whom I see average 22 points with a PER of 17 against the Raps). Hey, you guys need defense, and Kirk can bring that. So can Taj, actually. He was second on the Bulls in DRating this season as a rookie and will probably improve with experience.

I’m sure we can throw in some other filler to make the salaries work…

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